Music, politics and identity: from Cool Britannia to Grime4Corbyn

Winter 2017

Many theorists have studied the relationship between politics and culture, from Gramsci and Adorno to Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams. But less attention has been given to the cultural role of music than to that of literature, film or visual art. Indeed, popular music and the commercial music industry have sometimes been dismissed altogether as a distracting or corrupting aspect of ‘mass culture’. More sympathetic writers have discerned in both popular and subcultural forms of music a capacity to reflect, reinforce or resist hegemonic ideas and to articulate a liberatory politics. This article seeks to address some recent aspects of the dynamic between politics and popular music, and its interaction with the construction and contestation of both class and national British identity, before suggesting grounds for optimism on the prospects for a renewed relationship between these elements.

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Soundings 67: Ways of resisting